In support of International Women’s Week the London FA spoke to Ben Leeves, Glebe Wildcats Manager, about their experiences setting up a Wildcats Centre and any advice he could give for a Club looking to set one up.
What led you to setting up a Wildcats centre?
It was something that had been discussed after seeing the FA initiative. My daughter had tried football with mixed sessions but had really enjoyed the Wildcat sessions at a different centre I had taken her to. At the time, my son was playing for Glebe and I was coaching the U18 boys. It seemed a great idea for Glebe to have its own centre and Nikola, Grace and Jeff have been great drivers in getting this set up.
Have you faced any hurdles or challenges in the process of running a Wildcats centre?
Initially, one of the challenges was the recruitment of players and coaches for the sessions. As Wildcats is an open session, a turn up and play, the numbers can vary from week to week. When we first started, one week we had only two girls turn up whereas recently, we have had nearly forty! It is a different approach to coaching; it is more than football and sessions require a full range of movement and need to be fun. I find now the biggest challenge is the age gap. Ideally, they would be in two sessions, one being for girls up to year 4 and the second being for years 5 and 6.
What are some of the benefits and the best part of running a Wildcats centre?
It is absolutely brilliant watching girls develop an enjoyment to a sport they have never thought of trying before. The friendships that have developed over time have been fantastic to see too. We are now at the stage that a few of the older girls could go on to be Wildcat coaches for us which is something I had not thought of when we first started. It was just about girls playing to start but to see them branch out maybe towards coaching has been a real bonus. A team has also grown from our Wildcats session and hopefully many more will follow in the years to come.
What would your advice to a club looking to start a Wildcats?
Go for it! Be patient as it will take time. Do not under estimate how strong girls are at football and how quickly they will develop. Also, try and find a coach with a huge emphasis on fun and enjoyment.